RUGBY LEAGUE: Halifax find Wigan are just too resilient

Halifax 14 Wigan 20
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Halifax 14 Wigan 20

WHEN HALIFAX come to analyse how they lost the game they dominated for long periods last night, they will reflect not on Wigan's usual brilliance but on their resilience.

If a fascinating contest at the top of Super League had been decided on the balance of play, Halifax would have won by a handsome margin. Instead, the outcome was determined by two attacks in the second half, one producing Wigan's vital try and the other one in a series that Halifax had disallowed.

The one that counted came when one of Wigan's relatively isolated raids saw Andy Farrell draw in the defence expertly and slip the ball inside to give Robbie McCormack a clear run to the line for the converted try that won it.

Halifax thought they had a chance of a well-deserved draw 10 minutes from time when Gavin Clinch dummied his way over but play was brought back for Martin Moana's knock-on at the previous play-the-ball.

It was of four video decisions that went against Halifax, but their coach, John Pendlebury, had no complaints.

"The rub of the green went against us at crucial times, but I thought all the video decisions went the right way," he said.

Halifax had given Wigan their most uncomfortable start of the season, catching them out twice in the first five minutes to claim two tries before they could find any sort of composure.

After only two minutes, Paul Rowley ran the ball on the last tackle and sent Moana over. Then, after Simon Haughton had conceded possession with one of Wigan's numerous first-half knock-ons, Clinch moved the ball to the right for his half-back partner, Chris Chester to score.

Jamie Bloem missed both conversions and on their first attack Wigan all but wiped out Halifax's lead.

It was a move of real quality, Gary Connolly turning the ball inside for Mark Bell and Kris Radlinski finished it off and leaving Farrell a simple conversion.

It was against the run of play when Wigan took the lead, a debatable refereeing decision awarding them the scrum when Farrell's bomb was knocked down. Straight from that scrum, Henry Paul made Halifax's defence over- commit itself and coasted for his side's second try, also converted by Farrell.

Halifax went close on three occasions, David Bouveng twice and Daio Powell being denied by various combinations of referee, touch judge and video replay.

Instead, they relied on two penalties from their substitute, Martin Pearson, to bring them level by half-time, the second of them awarded when Mick Cassidy was sin-binned for holding down.

An exchange of penalties, Pearson's from halfway after Farrelll had put the ball dead from his kick-off, kept the scores in tandem, even if it was Halifax who spent more time putting pressure on their opponent's line.

They lost Pearson to the sin-bin for holding down but seemed to have weathered that when Farrell and McCormack struck but at the very least they showed that they need to be taken seriously as a top-five side.

"We had to work very hard tonight," John Monie, the Wigan coach, said. One look at players who had encountered such determined opponents five days after beating St Helens showed exactly what he meant.

Halifax: Gibson; Bloem, Powell, Bouveng, Tuilagi; Chester, Clinch; Harrison, Rowley, Marshall, Mercer, Clark, Moana. Substitutes used: Skerrett, Pearson, Baldwin, Hall.

Wigan: Radlinski, Robinson, Moore, Connolly, Bell, Paul, Smith, O'Connor, McCormack, Mestrov, Betts, Haughton, Farrell. Substitutes used: Cassidy, Holgate, Gilmour, Johnson.

Referee: S Ganson (St Helens).